Driven

All Smiles: 2014 VW Beetle GSR

If you’ve ever needed a little extra spring in your step, a smile on your face, this 2014 VW Beetle GSR could be the car to provide it. Back when we drove the standard Beetle, we found it missing one thing: character. This VW has enough character for two Beetles. The 2014 Beetle GSR, in Yellow Rush with black racing stripes, is a car to brighten your day both literally and figuratively.

VW Beetle GSR 1

This being a special edition R Line model, the GSR adds the special livery and interior fitments on top of the long list of R Line standard features. This Beetle certainly exudes more aggression in comparison to the retro-inspired Beetle we tested back in 2012. Outside, the larger intakes, flared side sill extensions, and rear spoiler all add to the allure and heritage of this Gelb-Schwarzer Renner. The GSR, or “yellow black racer” is inspired by the 1973 special edition Super Beetle of the same name. This GSR is a limited-run model, just like the original. We found ourselves behind the wheel of #176 of 3500. If you’re so struck, a quick look around dealer websites reveals that you can still find one. In fact, we came across a GSR at our local dealership during our time with #176.

VW Beetle GSR 3

Inside the special-edition feel isn’t quite as pronounced. Leather sport seats with yellow stitching are manually adjustable, but comfortable and supportive. The rear seats have decent headroom, but are short on legroom. Adult rear passengers won’t be happy with anything more than a short trip. The flat-bottom steering wheel, while small, fit perfectly in the hands. The unique number plaque is a nice touch to the special-edition. A brushed-aluminum-looking plastic and piano black trim replace the body-color interior components. The small top glove compartment, not large enough to fit a sunglasses case, is adorned with a yellow GSR badge. We were surprised to find that standard bi-xenon headlights are operated manually. Interestingly, the fog lights and high beams are capable of operating at the same time. The Fender audio system, against standard GSR equipment, sounded excellent, but took up some trunk space with it’s subwoofer. Lastly, the standard infotainment screen was comically small. There are cellphones on the market that have larger screens than the VW Beetle. Despite its size, it was very intuitive and easy to use.

VW Beetle GSR 15

The GSR’s drivetrain, the same as all Beetle R Line (formerly Turbo), is familiar to us from our time with the VW Jetta GLI. However, the Beetle, with it’s shorter wheelbase and higher center of gravity, felt a little lackluster in the corners. Torque steer is present, as it was in the GLI, but the Beetle seemed to have a more noticeable twitch. Still though, the 210 horsepower and 207lb-ft of torque provided ample quickness when the pedal is put to the floor. Snapping through the gears is easy with VW’s DSG. The turbo four-cylinder fills the cabin with a grin-inducing rumble as the engine spins to just over 6,000rpm. Under load, the dual-clutch gearbox shines, but it remains jittery and uncertain at slow speeds. The good news for some enthusiasts, if you’re not a fan of dual-clutch transmissions, is the no-cost 6-speed manual. The only unsettling part of the entire driving experience came from the brakes. Perhaps a symptom of all the extra power, but the Beetle’s brakes felt soft and spongy. In a car that gets up and goes, the GSR isn’t up to snuff when it’s time to stop. There’s no confidence in the brake pedal, and it negatively affects how you drive the car.

VW Beetle GSR 8

Our week with the Beetle GSR went by like a bright yellow blur. Despite the grey weather, it was always upbeat. Nobody expects to be passed by a yellow and black Beetle with massive spoiler, and people’s reactions were priceless. It was a car to be seen in, garnering looks and many “I saw you” texts from friends. Our biggest hurdle on the week came with the price tag. Sure, VW might find 3,500 die-hard Beetle fans willing to pay homage to the 1973 classic, but this Beetle rang in well above the price of a well-equipped GLI. An enthusiast less concerned with the limited-edition nature of the GSR could order a 2015 GTI and still save some money for gas. But as far as the Beetle goes, the GSR has no rival. There’s a lot of character in this version, from its look-at-me paint scheme to the turbocharged engine under the hood. It’s a celebration of all things Beetle, even if the engine is in the wrong place. If you’re looking for fun, something to stand out in, and something to celebrate the long heritage of VW’s Beetle, look no further than the GSR. Just don’t bring flowers, the vase is gone.

-Scott Villeneuve

2014 VW Beetle GSR
$31,095
First Aid Kit $35
Destination Charges $820
As Tested MSRP $31,950

Related:
All Grown Up, Still a Bit Short: 2012 VW Beetle
Lady in Red: 2014 VW Jetta GLI

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